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Last week a member of our romance community, author Jackie Barbosa, lost her teenage son in a car accident.

As the mother of a child the same age, I was originally going to write next, but I don’t think it really makes a difference. You don’t have to be a parent to have some inkling of the devastation Jackie and her family are experiencing now.

It’s hard to know how to show sympathy, or be of use to a grieving family, when your acquaintance is virtual. But author Courtney Milan had an idea: during this time when book promotion is probably the last thing on Jackie’s mind, maybe the rest of us could step up and talk about her books, and take at least a part of that burden off her shoulders.

Jackie writes contemporary romance, historical romance, and erotica. Her complete list of books is here.

HUTCA book of hers that I’ve read and enjoyed is the novella Hot Under the Collar, a spicy but surprisingly sweet story of romance between a vicar and a fallen woman. Particularly charming is the journey of hero Walter Langston, who falls into the job half-reluctantly, with no real interest in scripture or delivering sermons, and to his own surprise finds himself growing invested in, and eventually skilled at ministering to, the people who make up his parish community.

Jackie’s site has a lot of samples, and a few downloadable free reads as well. I encourage you to give one of her books a try.

And if you’d like to donate to the memorial fund for her son, Julian, author Beverley Kendall has the details, with a PayPal link, on her blog. Donations in any amount are appreciated.

 

 

 

Not one, not two, but three of my favorite historical-romance authors have books out this month! In case they’re not already on your radar, allow me to put them there.

The Jade Temptress book coverThe Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin, released March 1.

Dramatic backstory: In December, Lin blogged candidly about some disappointing news: sales for The Lotus Palace, first book in her new series, had been so poor that Harlequin canceled the print release of the series follow-up, The Jade Temptress, opting to publish it in e-book form only.

This was a demoralizing development for those of us who love Lin’s writing, those who appreciate her candor and wish her well, and those who’d like to see more diversity in the settings and stories of historical romance. Pretty much everyone I know who’s tried one of Lin’s books has become a fan; it was frustrating that more people weren’t trying her.

Then, a plot twist: Harlequin put The Lotus Palace on sale for 99 cents – and it sold. It sold enough copies to land on the USA Today bestseller list. Lin blogs about that slightly surreal experience here.

So now The Jade Temptress is out, and not only am I looking forward to reading it, but I’m hoping hard that a good number of the e-book readers who snapped up The Lotus Palace will move on to the sequel.

And here comes my quick sales pitch: if you like historical romance, but worry that Tang Dynasty China is too far removed in time and courtship conventions to give you all the familiar pleasures you look for in romance, well, first of all I hear you because those are the same reasons I don’t read Medieval.

And second of all, I think you need to read Jeannie Lin. If you like formidable women and and upstanding men who have a weakness for formidable women; if you like pulse-pounding action scenes; if you like vivid world-building and plots that turn on questions of honor, then I think her books are for you.

(If you want to start by dipping your toes in, I recommend her novella Capturing the Silken Thief, which sets up the world of The Lotus Palace and The Jade Temptress.)


Sweet Disorder book coverSweet Disorder by Rose Lerner, out March 18

Dramatic backstory: Lerner debuted in 2010 with the utterly charming marriage-of-convenience Regency In for a Penny. It got superlative reviews and she was voted Best Debut Author in the year-end poll at All About Romance. Her career was off to an auspicious start.

Then her publisher, Dorchester, already in financial trouble, started crumbling in earnest. They pushed back publication of her follow-up book, and pushed it back again, and finally released it in trade paperback instead of romance-friendly mass-market, shortly before they went under completely. Lerner talks about the Dorchester experience, with its feelings of helplessness and irrational shame, toward the end of this interview.

So we’ve had a long wait for another Rose Lerner book, but it’s finally here, and I’m lucky enough to have read it already and I can tell you it’s a delight.

And now my sales pitch for Rose Lerner: her books are full of historical detail that gives them a sort of sensuous texture (does that make sense? I’m not sure how else to put it); and more than this, her writing is vibrant with authorial affection and enthusiasm, both for the little research oddities she’s managed to weave into her story (Sweet Disorder‘s plot turns on a bit of small-town electoral trivia: a widow’s prospective husband will get to vote in the upcoming election, so both Whigs and Tories are scrambling to matchmake her to a man of their choosing), and for the characters with whom she peoples that story, right down to the two Mr. Wrongs who inevitably have to get beaten out by our hero. (I really want that confectioner to meet a nice girl with a fearsome sweet tooth.)


Fool me Twice book coverFool me Twice by Meredith Duran, out March 25

Slightly-less-dramatic backstory: I’ve said before that if for some reason I had to give up reading every romance writer but one, Duran would be my keeper. It’s probably still true.

But I have to admit I’ve fallen two and a half books behind on her oeuvre. I think where I stumbled was when she released At Your Pleasure, which, departing from her usual Victorian setting, took place in early Georgian times. I don’t know a lot about early Georgian times, so, like someone who hesitates to pick up a book set in the Tang Dynasty, I kept finding something else to read.

(Also I didn’t like the cover – not only did the woman not look Georgian, but she looked rather vapid, and not like someone I wanted to read about. You’d think I’d know better than to judge a romance book by its cover, but I do think it may have been a factor.)

It’s not that I ever decided not to read the book; other things just kept leapfrogging it on the TBR pile. And before I knew it her next book was out - That Scandalous Summer, another Victorian – and I thought, “No, I still have to read At Your Pleasure before I read this one,” and again, I kept finding other things to read.

But Fool me Twice, sequel to That Scandalous Summer, is out this month and I’m hearing a lot of good buzz. And it was on sale for $1.99, and so was TSS, so I gave up (for now) on AYP and bought and started TSS.

And now I’m mystified as to why this book didn’t get the buzz that Fool me Twice is getting, because it has everything I love about Meredith Duran’s writing: thoughtful, intelligent characters I care immediately about; imaginative turns of phrase; substantial questions about how to live a meaningful life. Also great chemistry between a couple of incorrigible flirts :)

As of this writing both That Scandalous Summer and Fool me Twice are still $1.99 in ebook. If you haven’t read Duran, this is a great opportunity to see why she’s such a favorite of mine.


What books are coming out this spring that you’re excited about? And if you had to give up every romance author but one, who do you think would be your keeper?

ALL of my Audiobooks on Sale

Edited to add: Okay, it turns out all three of my audiobooks are 50% off at Tantor! A Gentleman Undone hereA Woman Entangled here. And it looks like the sale lasts through 2/28.

I know; I know; it’s been forever since I posted anything here. This last year has been a rough one (if I can get sanguine enough about it, one of these days I’ll tell you the story of My Jaw-Dropping Mistake That Ruined Christmas For The Entire Family, which is one of the few chapters from last year that even bears sharing), and I’ve tried to funnel what writing energy I’ve had into book-writing instead of blogging.

But I wanted to let you know that the audiobook of A Lady Awakened is currently 50% off at Tantor Audio. Not sure how long the sale will last, but if you’re a fan of audiobooks, that seems like a good price.

If you haven’t read A Lady Awakened yet, and want some convincing, here’s a very nice recent review.

Giveaway at Dear Author

The review website Dear Author is doing book giveaways all this month, and I’m one of the giver-awayers today. You can enter to win one of 5 copies of A Woman Entangled, or one set of audiobooks (one copy of A Lady Awakened and one of A Gentleman Undone) – as well as romantic suspense by Rachel Kall, and Scottish romance by Tarah Scott.

The Woman Entangled giveaway is open to international entries; the audiobook giveaway is US only. I’m not sure for how long the giveaway runs, but it’s not for very long. “A few days” is what the page says.

Go win some books!

This drawing is now closed. Random.org has picked commenter beckymmoe as the winner of Susanna’s book. Congratulations to beckymmoe – I’ve sent your email address to Susanna; you should be getting a message from her soon!


It’s always a pleasure to welcome my favorite romance-writing military-history geek to the blog. Susanna Fraser stops by today to talk about her just-released novella, A Dream Defiant, and to give a copy away! Read on:


Cover for A Dream Defiant

Spain, 1813

Elijah Cameron, the son of runaway slaves, has spent his whole life in the British army proving that a black man can be as good a soldier as a white man. After a victory over the French, Elijah promises one of his dying men that he will deliver a scavenged ruby necklace to his wife, Rose, a woman Elijah has admired for years.

Elijah feels bound to protect her and knows a widow with a fortune in jewels will be a target. Rose dreams of using the necklace to return to England, but after a violent attack, she realizes she needs Elijah’s help to make the journey safely.

Her appreciation for Elijah’s strength and integrity soon turns into love, but he doubts she could want a life with him, knowing the challenges they’d face. As their relationship grows, she must convince Elijah that she wants him as more than a bodyguard. And she must prove that their love can overcome all obstacles, no matter the color of their skin.


Q: You’re an author who takes research very seriously. Did you find yourself setting an even-higher-than-usual standard of accuracy when it came to writing a protagonist of a different race from your own? And were there moments when you doubted your ability, or authority, to tell Elijah’s story in an authentic way?Susanna Fraser

A: I definitely wanted to be as accurate as possible, because I was writing about a culture and ethnicity that isn’t my own and one that, to be frank, has been systematically harmed by my native culture. That said, I was limited by the relative paucity of source material. (Although, as always, I’m sure there’s more out there I simply didn’t find–at some point you just have to take off your researcher hat and put the writer one on.) For example, I found scattered references to black soldiers, but I never found a detailed history of a man in Elijah’s position, so I was left to extrapolate what his experiences might have been like.

And I definitely had many moments of self-doubt about whether I should or could tell this story. Ultimately what helped was realizing that I didn’t have to tell the entire story of the black experience in 19th century Britain–that such a thing was FAR beyond the scope of one novella-length historical romance, to put it mildly. All I needed to do was tell a slice of ONE character’s life story. That much I could do.

Q: Like your debut, The Sergeant’s Lady, A Dream Defiant features a heroine widowed while following her husband at war. What is it about the plight of the “following the drum” widow that compels you as a writer?

A: I find myself drawn to widowed heroines in general for a very simple reason–it allows me to write older, sexually experienced heroines who aren’t necessarily “bad girls” or otherwise possessed of a complex or unusual backstory. They’ve been married, happily or otherwise, and now they’re widowed, which in a world with no antibiotics and only rudimentary trauma medicine is ridiculously easy for a writer to make believable.

As for widows following the drum, Rose’s circumstances in A Dream Defiant are quite different from Anna’s in The Sergeant’s Lady. As an officer’s widow and a daughter of the aristocracy, Anna had the resources to return home, and the social expectation that she would observe a normal period of mourning for her husband. Of course that’s not (quite) what happened, given that her husband’s death freed her from a miserable, abusive situation and she quickly met and had adventures with the RIGHT man.

Enlisted soldiers’ widows like Rose, however, were expected to remarry quickly. Each company was allowed a small number of wives officially “on the strength” (generally six), and once a woman was widowed, she lost the right to draw rations for herself and her children. Few women could afford to go home or had a way to support themselves and any children if they did, so most of them remarried almost immediately. I’d read about such women in my initial research for The Sergeant’s Lady, and I was drawn to the poignancy of having to choose a second husband so soon after burying a first one, especially for a woman who loved, or at least was fond of, her first. In fact, that was my initial inspiration for A Dream Defiant.

Q: Rose and Elijah marry for a fascinating mix of reasons, some pragmatic – she needs the protection of marriage; he likes her cooking – and some less so. Was it tricky to establish their mutual attraction in a way that wouldn’t detract from Rose’s sincere mourning, for, and Elijah’s friendship with, her first husband?

A: It was definitely a balancing act. I didn’t want Rose’s first marriage to have been wholly unhappy. I’ve written unhappy first marriages before and will probably do so again. Still, I do feel like it’s the easy way out with a widowed heroine, so I don’t want to go to that well too often. But I also wanted her to find something more with Elijah (this being a romance, after all). So I tried to show without being too heavy-handed that Elijah shared brains, drive, and frustrated ambition with Rose that would enable them to be more together than either were apart, while her first husband had been more of a dead weight. An affectionate, kind, well-meaning dead weight, but one who’d been holding her back all the same.

Q: The couple encounters a spectrum of responses to their marriage, among their regiment and later back in England. Were certain places or populations more welcoming than others to an interracial couple at the time?

A: Interracial marriages were far more accepted in England than in America during this period–really at any point during the 19th century. The fact that England itself wasn’t a slave society (though it still had slavery in some of its colonies) seemed to make its people more willing to accept blacks as equal to whites of similar financial and/or occupational status. Class mattered more than race in a lot of ways. By that measure Rose and Elijah are essentially equals. If anything, Elijah, who is relatively well-educated and has a colonel for his family’s (occasionally patronizing) patron, ranks a little higher.

That said, there was of course plenty of racial prejudice. For one thing, the stereotype about black men’s penis size and sexual prowess already existed, so we see a bit of that from some of the more prejudiced soldiers speculating on why beautiful Rose, who could have her pick of men in the regiment, chose Elijah. In general, I got the impression from my research that the degree of prejudice varied a lot from person to person, just as it does now, so I wrote my characters’ experiences accordingly.

Q: Rose has a passion and a gift for cooking. I know from your blog that you’re an avid hobby cook yourself. What was it like to write a character who shared one of your own avocations?

A: Because of my interest in cooking, I’d been wanting to write a cook or chef character for quite awhile. It’s easier to connect to a character when you share a common interest, and while Rose was my first culinary protagonist I doubt she’ll be my last. There’s that badass garlic-wielding vampire-slaying French chef in one of my unfinished manuscripts, for example…

Q: Is this the last we’ll hear from this set of characters? Late in the book there’s an intriguing mention of Elijah’s officer friend, Lieutenant Farlow. Might there be more to his story?

A: I’m working on a proposal for Henry Farlow’s story now! It will be a full-length novel.

Q: What are you working on right now, and what do you plan to be working on after that?

A: I’ve got several balls in the air. My next scheduled release isn’t until late 2014–a holiday novella from Carina. But I’m hoping to have at least one and hopefully two releases before then. In addition to Henry Farlow’s story, I’ve got a short Christmas time travel novella in the works, and I’m planning a series based around children and grandchildren of “Wild Geese”–Scottish and Irish Jacobites who took refuge in Spain and France after the failed Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century.

Thanks, Susanna, for stopping by! My ears pricked up at “Christmas time-travel novella” (?!), so you can be sure I’ll be watching for that :)


Susanna will be giving away an electronic copy (PDF, epub, or kindle) of A Dream Defiant to one randomly chosen commenter on this post. Tell us your favorite romance – from book, film, or TV – with a military/wartime setting. Star Wars counts! (But if you say “Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala in the prequels,” you will be immediately disqualified from the drawing.) (Not really.)*

Leave a comment by 11:59:59 PM Pacific time on Friday, August 2nd for a chance to win!

*Any comment at all will be entered in the drawing. “I want to win,” “I’ve never liked any military romance,” and “Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca, obviously” are all valid entries.   


Somewhere or other I saw the author Courtney Milan say that she goes through a period of hating every book she writes before she’s done with it. I didn’t have that experience with A Lady Awakened or A Gentleman Undone, but boy, did I make up for lost time with A Woman Entangled. There were days – many of them in a row – when I doubted the book was ever going to come together in a shape suitable for publication, let alone suitable for following up what I thought were a pretty good debut and sophomore effort.

So good reviews and emails from readers maybe mean a little bit more with this book, and maybe still come as something of a surprise. And I’m surprised, and utterly delighted, to learn that RT Book Reviews awarded AWE its Seal of Excellence for July!

Yay, Romantic Times! Are any of you readers & writers planning on going to the convention next year? I’ve never been to an RT convention, but I’m thinking this next one – in New Orleans – might be a good first.

Oh, also, if you haven’t read A Woman Entangled yet, be sure to enter the giveaway on Goodreads.

 

This has nothing to do with romance or writing (or giveaways). But it’s a month today since my dad left us, and I’m missing him a lot. So here’s a picture of me and my dad.

Picture of me and my dad, from many years ago

This is a long-ago Thanksgiving. The stainless-steel bowl contains jello salad.

Dad was – it still takes a conscious effort not to say “is;” to speak about him in the past tense – a very private person and probably would not approve of my posting this picture. (“Would not have approved,” I guess I should say.)

That’s all. No point to make; this is just where my thoughts are today.

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